DENVER (AP) - In October 2016, a delegation from Denver took off for Dubai to pursue “important business and tourism connections.”
Mayor Michael Hancock, a top deputy, and two city council members flew business class on Emirates Airline. They stayed at The Palace Downtown hotel for a week. Total cost of the trip, including incidentals, paid for by Denver International Airport: $16,502 a person.
Top city officials argued to the Denver Board of Ethics in late 2017 that they shouldn’t have to report this kind of travel - hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth, especially when business class upgrades are involved - because the city is the city, and the city can’t donate to, or influence itself.
The Board of Ethics wasn’t buying it, and appears to have put serious handcuffs on this kind of travel. The spat highlights the existence of an interesting practice. There are two sets of rules for city travel; rules that are determined by the source of funds that pay for the travel.
City rules call for flying coach, but in certain cases Mayor Michael Hancock, his staff and the city council flew business class on trips organized by the airport.
CPR News requested travel receipts through the state’s open records law to get a sense of the scope of travel. From 2013 to 2017, the airport has provided $426,436 in travel to the mayor’s office and city council, mostly business class overseas flights.
Councilman Rafael Espinoza expressed surprise at the number of trips when asked if he had been offered any business class flights.
“Since in office? Exactly zero. Zero business, and, not to sound like sour grapes, but zero coach as well,” he said. “I’ll just be honest.”
Espinoza said it might be because of his criticism of Mayor Michael Hancock and airport management. The airport has sole discretion who takes trips, and the airport CEO, Kim Day, is appointed by the mayor....Advertising for flying business class makes it clear that airlines consider it a luxury: wonderful cuisine and seats that become beds. Of course, this comes with at a price, often 10 times a coach ticket, but for Denver city leaders it’s a valuable fringe benefit.Councilman Kevin Flynn took a flight on Denver International Airport’s dime in 2017, with the airport shelling out $10,058 for a series of flights, the bulk of which were business class. Flynn emphasized that for “any business, and in any city, it’s necessary to travel.” In this case, he went to Amsterdam and London, touring security systems.“Getting up at five in the morning each day, and constantly booked from end-to-end,” he said. “It was anything but a pleasure trip, it was a business trip.”Five other city council